THE URGENCY OF THE PRAYER MOVEMENT: IS IT NOW OR NEVER?
The early 20th century Methodist pastor, Samuel Chadwick, once made the unique observation, “The greatest answer to prayer is more prayer.” If he was right, we must be entering a season of answered prayer as the national prayer movement increasingly gathers momentum.
The examples of the growing burden for prayer continue to develop all around us. For instance, a few months ago, pastor and author, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, called Southern Baptist pastors to join him in Dallas for 2 days of prayer for spiritual awakening. Pastors from several states called upon God and returned to their churches both refreshed and burdened for a fresh move of God. That meeting was followed by a second meeting in Atlanta where nearly twice the original number participated. These were not “Bible Conferences” or preaching events. They were times of humility as men, charged with spiritual leadership, wrestled with God in prayer.
In June, Dr. Floyd was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention and used his platform to call all Southern Baptists to prayer for the purpose of spiritual awakening. His leadership will no doubt drive the SBC into a more focused and intentional prayer strategy. More prayer meetings like the ones in Dallas and Atlanta are inevitable. (see Dr Floyd’s thoughts here- http://www.ronniefloyd.com/blog/7215/southern-baptist-convention/extraordinary-prayer-for-the-next-great-awakening-what-is-it-how-do-we-do-it/)
Later in June, Family Research Council, a lobbying organization for traditional marriage and pro-life issues in Washington DC, called for a Day of Prayer in Church services across America “for God to reshape our lives and renew our land.” (http://www.call2fall.com/basics) Obviously, the intent of this call to prayer bares a strong similarity to the emphasis currently gaining strength in the SBC.
In another notable example, Anne Graham Lotz issued a call to a national day of prayer on July 7. Following her own extended times of prayer she called Christians across the United States to join her for 7 hours of prayer and fasting for a national spiritual awakening “before it’s too late and judgement falls on our nation.” (http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2014/July/Anne-Graham-Lotz-Sounds-Alarm-Calls-for-Prayer/?exitmobile=true)
What is happening? Why are so many Christian leaders sensing the draw of God’s Spirit to call the Church to prayer? These few notable examples are only the tip of the iceberg, in a sense. For instance, in separate developments, pastors in Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana recently coordinated prayer meetings across those states, each praying for revival. (http://m.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=42972) The movement is bound to grow as pastors and leaders testify to the blessing of these events, and as answers from Heaven descend.
Here in Austin, a growing burden for spiritual awakening in our city has drawn pastors of many denominations to meet at least once a month for several hours of united prayer. One outgrowth of those pastoral prayer meetings has been the rise of significant city wide prayer events with up to a thousand people meeting together, praying for revival. These events are not about one church or one denomination. Rather, they are the manifestations of the Body of Christ crying out in one voice.
Why now? What is driving the rising tide of nearly spontaneous prayer meetings?
The Assemblies of God director of the Office of Prayer and Spiritual Care, John Maempa, believes one reason is the cultural revolution we are currently observing in the US. He recognizes the moral decline of the nation as the most conspicuous reason for the renewal of prayer meetings throughout America, among numerous denominations, (regardless of their lack of agreement on some doctrinal points). At least we can agree our nation is in spiritual trouble and the Church must join together in prayer.
In a similar way, like so many other churches, denominations, and para-church organizations, the revival ministry, One Cry, is likewise involving thousands of Christians, from many denominational backgrounds in America, to pray daily for revival and spiritual awakening, with an almost identical vision and passion noted in the other ministries previously mentioned. Clearly, in America, a ground swell of prayer is taking shape. (http://www.charismanews.com/us/33598-prayer-movements-building-stronghold-in-america)
Obviously, prayer meetings, and the thirst for revival, are not new, but in my years of ministry, I have never seen a greater consensus about the problems facing us, or the desire to find God’s solutions through prayer. This unity is consistent in the life of nearly every pastor I know. It is almost a given today, when pastors and Christian leaders meet together, we talk about the need for prayer and spiritual awakening for our churches and our nation. We know something is wrong, and as a culture we have moved beyond the point of human solutions (if, in fact, human solutions were ever an option in the first place). As a result, it is almost certain the movement of prayer meetings for revival will increase across the denominational spectrum.
We can expect God to answer our prayers because He has promised to do so (Jeremiah 33:3, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Matthew 7:7, etc.), and He has responded to the cries of His people for generations. In fact, it is our desperation-combined with genuine repentance, that seems to bend the heart of God near to His broken people.
There will always be those who scoff and ridicule our motives and our efforts. Yet, if the hour is late, as so many fear it is, then we will put the cynic and the scoffer on our prayer list and we will press on in prayer. In the end, I would rather be ridiculed by the secularist and the sceptic than miss the opportunity to participate in what may be the last, best hope for genuine spiritual awakening in my lifetime. So, if you want to pray for revival in Jesus’ name- I’m with you!